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Month: October 2007

Becoming a Music Librarian, Part 2

Tomorrow I teach my first real music research class, so I’ve spent the last couple of days putting together what I’ve affectionately termed the Longest Research Guide Ever (link will be live until Dec. 2007, after which time you can contact me if, for some strange reason, you really want to see this monstrous thing). On the one hand, I’m really proud of this guide. It represents the sum total of what I know about finding sources for music research (except that it doesn’t list a couple of important bibliographic databases… Sad that this would be the sum total, but there you have it. After all, I only learned this stuff myself 10 days ago…). On the other hand, it also represents all that I try to avoid in a course research guide, and so I feel kind of guilty even showing it to my students tomorrow.

Here’s what I don’t like about the guide: it’s long. It’s a long block of text. There’s nothing to lessen the unrelenting, overwhelming length of the thing. I’ve tried to mitigate this by including a sort of table of contents at the beginning, blockish indents, and bulleted lists. But still, the thing is just plain long, and the whole point of a course research guide as opposed to a subject research guide is that it’s supposed to be neatly tailored to the needs of a specific course or even a specific assignment. … This is no neatly tailored piece of writing; it’s a dissertation on how to find specific content in the library.

But this particular course guide is long for three very good reasons.

  • First and probably most important, I’m not yet familiar enough with the subject, its research methods, or the students in that department to know what kind of detail is appropriate or helpful. When this happens, my nature is to write lots and then cut back later. This may not be the best method of attack, but it’s the only way I can wrap my head around the subject myself. So really, this is the guide that I need rather than the guide my students need.
  • Second, the teacher wanted the students to be able to “see the possibilities” that exist for music research (including access editions, manuscripts, (auto)biography, recordings, reviews, criticism, etc.). For their final oral presentation, the students will then be asked to take a piece of music and demonstrate to the class the kinds of artifacts that could be used to learn more about that piece.
  • Which leads to the third reason: the only commonality between the possible student topics will be that they’re pieces composed for piano, and there are a lot of pieces composed for piano… quite a lot. So I felt I had to somehow cover all the bases that would be possible for any piece, any composer.

Whether this ends up being a success or not, I hope that at the very least the students learn as much by using the guide as I learned to create it. I also anticipate stealing most of the content from this thing to work into the research guide for the whole department, and probably 4 or 5 littler handouts for the music faculty.


Whew! I’m Still a Librarian

I spent a couple of hours today trying to find the original French version of Hélène Cixous’ essay “Sorties” for a student. It’s one of Cixous’ most anthologized essays, but I simply could NOT find the French version. All I could find were translations.

Foreign language materials are notoriously difficult to find, even in WorldCat, because they rarely get full descriptions and almost never get tables of contents (which is what I needed). I couldn’t search WorldCat by anything but author (and limit it to French language), but this left me with many results, none of which were described fully enough even to tell me if the given record was for one of Cixous’ fiction works or not.

I tried bibliographies, but the ones we had on hand only listed English language versions. I tried web searching, but drew a blank there too.

At long last I went to one of my grad school anthologies and saw that the essay was reproduced from a translated book called The Newly Born Woman. After trying several other tacks, I finally plugged that title into our catalog, hoping that it would give me more information. Low and behold, the uniform title popped up Jeune née. English (“The Newly Born Woman. English”). Never have I loved a uniform title more! Suddenly I realized that the translated book wasn’t just some collection of Cixous’ work. It was the thing itself. Searching for Jeune née (leaving off the “English” because that’s precisely what I didn’t want) I found what I wanted and practically ran downstairs, pulled the book, and flipped pages until I reached “Duèxieme Partie: Sorties.” Haleluia!!!! Now if only I could add the tables of contents to our record Right Now!

I settled for adding the table of contents to… but I’d prefer to be able to do it to our local catalog record while I’m thinking of it. Meanwhile, I’m going to have one of our catalogers add the contents notes as soon as the student is done with it. Meanwhile, I finally feel like a librarian again… I was worried for a bit there.

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Becoming a Music Librarian

Ever since I’ve been at this job, I’ve been the Music liaison. And up until this point, the (very few… as in, three) instruction sessions I’ve done have been focused on literature about music. So up until this point, I’ve been able to teach myself most of what I needed to know. This isn’t to say I’ve done a stellar job, or anything, but I haven’t out-right failed, either. Well, for the last year I’ve been meaning to move this along a little so that I could begin to actually serve my Music faculty and students rather than catch up all the time. And I had the added impetus of a new kind of instruction session coming up… the kind that moves beyond music criticism and into the realm of the music itself.

So today I spent some time at St. Olaf in their music library. That’s right, an entire library devoted to music and research about music, complete with a real live music librarian. This librarian generously took time out of her morning to begin at the beginning with me. Who knew that the LC M classification was so very logical? M100s are solo instruments, M200s are for two instruments… and so on. I also learned about editions (authorized and otherwise), about how to identify quality recordings, and about thematic catalogs. I’ve never been so jazzed about the prospect of developing some actual expertise in this area! (The only thing is, I think I’d have to learn German if I really wanted to become an expert. All of the most authoritative sources seem to be in German.)

When I got back to my own library, I immediately had to run downstairs to our music section and see which of the sources I’d learned about we actually had in our collection. And to my delight, I could finally recognize types of sources on the shelves just by walking past them! For me, this is the experience I can only hope to give my students when they come to see me. Walls and walls of books and a maze of online sources suddenly differentiate themselves into a structure and an order. They all fall into place.

Of course, I’ve just started to scratch the surface of music librarianship, but I feel like I’ve been handed the key to a whole new world. And it’s a beautiful world.


Best Presentation Ever

Today I went to an LTC lunch where a couple professors presented on their use of clickers (or Personal Response Systems) in their classes. Not only was the presentation interesting (I think I’ll try these clicker things in my classroom), but we all got to click away in response to questions they posed, and we got Oreos (to help us try to answer the question of when Oreos were first invented). Fun presentation + clicking + Oreos = happy Iris.

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